Update, 5.30pm: An eight-month probe into the City of Canning has recommended the council be suspended ahead of a full-scale inquiry after finding "serious and continuous" failings by the council and individual elected members.
The report, tabled in Parliament this morning, also recommended a further probe into breaches of the Local Government Act by Canning mayor Joe Delle Donne and Cr Bruce Mason relating to a failure to disclose their relationship with a contractor hired by the council.
Painting a damning picture of dysfunction, the report by the Department of Local Government concluded the council had seriously eroded its professional relationship with its administration and it would be inappropriate for it to continue to act as the governing body for the city.
“The inquiry submits that it is demonstrated by the number of examples of poor decision making and the adverse influence of the mayor’s group in council decision making that there has been a clear failure by council to ensure the City of Canning performs its functions properly,” the report said.
“The situation that exists now is that council has seriously eroded its professional relationship with its administration to the extent that the inquiry considers that if the council were to remain in office the potential exists for further major problems to develop.”
Singling out Mr Delle Donne, the report said the “single most concerning event” was his unilateral decision to suspend chief executive Mark Dacombe without the authority of or informing the council.
“The mayor’s actions in unilaterally suspending the CEO establish the extent of the power he, as an individual, inappropriately wielded over the administration,” it said.
The found Mr Delle Donne and Cr Mason had failed to disclose a “free lunch” from law firm Civic Legal prior to being involved in a decision to appoint them to the city’s legal services panel.
It said emails highlighted in particular Mr Delle Donne’s “close” business relationship with Civic Legal.
The report said the breakdown of the relationship between administration and council had been caused by the council continually rejecting or failing to seek sound officer advice, repeatedly interfering in administrative matters and unreasonably accusing staff of maladministration and Mr Dacombe of misconduct.
Mr Delle Donne said in a statement this afternoon that he was disappointed the Minister had not notified him of the release of the report.
“However, regardless of what I see as a lack of courtesy, particularly as it appears that the allegations are directed at me, I will await the Minister’s decision before making any public comment,” he said.
“Until I am aware of that decision, I will continue to work with the administration to provide the high level of services and facilities our residents and ratepayers expect and deserve to receive.
“I can only hope that the Minister ensures there will be a process of natural justice that will allow for all allegations to be answered in an open forum, rather than from behind closed doors.”
Local Government Minister John Castrilli said in Parliament that the inquiry’s findings were “of significant concern”.
He said the Government would consider the report, which he received yesterday, to determine what appropriate action should be taken.
“It is my intention for that process to be completed in the very near future,” he said.